PIERRE, S.D. —South Dakota’s state budget is facing a monumental decrease due to COVID-19 and is unable to replenish sales tax revenue losses despite receiving over $1 billion in federal relief funds.

Gov. Kristi Noem addressed the budget woes during a press conference Thursday, April 23, saying that March’s tax revenues will be known in the first week of May, but if the state’s video lottery funds are any indicator, sales tax revenues will be in steep decline.

“What I’m seeing coming in as far as video lottery revenues is a 50% decline. Which is interesting to me because a lot of times, anecdotally, what I hear from people is some of these businesses have had fairly good traffic,” Noem said. "I’m anticipating substantial decreases to our sales tax revenue, which is a substantial part of our budget. Eighty percent of our budget is education and healthcare. Congress did send South Dakota $1.25 billion, but they tied our hands on how we can spend it. The only way I can spend this money is on COVID-19 relief.”

Noem, a Republican, said that the $.1.25 billion in federal funds provided to the state cannot be spent to replace revenues.

“Really, what they’re telling me is they don’t want me to replace revenue loss. What they want me to do is create a bunch of new government programs,” Noem said. “I don’t want to blow more than a billion dollars growing government creating massive new programs that aren’t really necessary -- when all I really want to do is make sure I don’t have to slash teacher funding, to make sure I don’t have to cancel highway maintenance that is so imperative and important to keeping our economy and industries growing in the state. I don’t want to cut funding for nursing homes, but that is the situation they are putting me in. That is not conservative.”

Noem said that she is not asking for new money, but for the ability to use the money already given to South Dakota to replace revenue losses.

“I need Congress to allow states like South Dakota, that have made good decisions, wise decisions that have balanced out budgets, to make sure we have the flexibility to do what’s responsible and not create more government programs and more spending in order to access the money they’ve already given us,” Noem said.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Forum News Service file photo
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Forum News Service file photo

By the numbers

South Dakota health officials confirmed a total of 1,956 positive COVID-19 cases on Thursday, April 23, an increase of 98 cases from Wednesday.

The number of deaths resulting from COVID-19 remained at nine, according to the South Dakota Department of Health. Recovered cases totaled 1,064, while current hospitalizations decreased by four to 58. The number of active cases within the state totaled 883, down 29 cases from Wednesday.

Minnehaha County, which includes Sioux Falls and the Smithfield Foods plant, has a total of 1,636 confirmed positive cases, an increase of 86 cases from Wednesday.

The state Department of Labor and Regulation reported that 5,128 weekly claims for unemployment benefits were processed for the week of April 12-18.

That's a decrease of 1,231 claims from the previous week's total of 6,359. In all, $4.3 million has been paid out in state benefits and $9.6 million has been paid out in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits.

The state’s unemployment insurance trust fund balance as of April 19 was $115 million.

No racing spectators

A sprint car racing event will still be held in South Dakota on Saturday, April 25, but sans spectators.

Park Jefferson International Speedway in North Sioux City announced they will be refunding 700 tickets to Saturday’s sold out event after discussions with the state Department of Health and other local officials, according to the racetrack’s website.

The New Raceway Park in Jefferson made a similar announcement regarding Sunday’s planned racing event, stating that races scheduled for Sunday, April 26, will continue as planned but due to pressure from state and local officials, spectators will now be allowed into the grandstands. Refunds will be offered to those who purchased tickets.

Noem publicly thanked the organizers of both racing events during Thursday’s press conference.

“I appreciate them making this type of change, and I think it is a good decision. In a few weeks, we’ll be back to normal when it’s safe to do so,” Noem said.

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